During his Kentucky Derby win, American Pharoah was struck with a whip at least 32 times by jockey Victor Espinoza.
PETA believes that the merciless beating was a violation of Kentucky law, which states that after whipping a horse, a jockey must wait to see if the animal responds. But there was no pause in the beating of American Pharoah: Espinoza was seen “flailing away time and time again,” as one reporter put it, noting, with remarkable understatement, that the thrashing was “aesthetically unpleasing to watch.”
PETA filed a complaint with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission pointing out, “It is plain that Espinoza did not give the horse a chance to respond; rather, his use of the crop during the stretch run was incessant,” but we have yet to receive a response. Instead, the racing commission’s chief steward, Barbara Borden, has publicly stated that she didn’t believe the horse’s beating was “super excessive.”
If whacking a horse 32 times isn’t super excessive, one wonders what is.
This isn’t the first time that Espinoza has been accused of over-whipping a horse. Just days after beating American Pharoah during the Derby, Espinoza was fined $300 for whipping a horse named Stellar Wind in an April race at Santa Anita Park in California to the point that he broke the skin.
With millions of dollars in purse winnings on the line, it’s a pretty good bet that jockeys and trainers will do whatever it takes to get their horses across the finish line first. Whether or not whipping is futile in the final stretch, as studies have concluded, is beside the point. And whether or not beatings force a tired or an injured horse to run harder than he or she should—with potentially catastrophic results—is also apparently beside the point.
What You Can Do
No matter how much the industry tries to sugar-coat it, these are beatings, plain and simple, and Americans should be ashamed of themselves for cheering on animal abusers. Please, do not support horse-racing cruelty in any way: Don’t attend the Triple Crown races or place a bet on them, whether online or in person.